(January 24th) – parts of a letter to my cousin
Hi, [cousin]! Thank you for the welcome! Although I have been meeting other people, it was a great relief to know early on that you were out there. Not that I wanted to knock on your door late at night while I was on the run, but there were a few days not too long ago where I felt like it was a little higher on my list of options than “swim back to Canada across the Pacific.”
You were correct to state that it can be a bitch to get settled; in fact, that’s part of the reason I’m so late in getting back to you. I still haven’t gotten internet at my apartment; and Yahoo!BB says it’ll be ten more days before they even *get back to me* about some kind of Yahoo! / NTT name mismatch that’s keeping me from getting my ADSL gear and getting online. It’s really frustrating, because another intern (Australian – the K. girl in my journals) who arrived after I did got her internet last week. So I can only get online at work, and only for a few minutes during lunch time or after school, so right now I’m typing this at home, and then I’ll save it on my USB key, then copy-and-paste and Facebook-mail it to you.
As you might have guessed… I had, and in some ways am still having, if I allow myself to be honest, quite a little bout of culture shock. I had a rough trip over and moved into the “rejection” phase alarmingly quickly. But I won’t go beating around about that, and if you have come to consider “OMG I can’t believe such-and-such is like THIS in Japan” stories passé and boring, I wouldn’t blame you one bit. I’m giving up railing about things I can’t change.
I’ve come to accept things now; there are transient annoyances, but few (aside from the Yahoo!BB nonsense) that I can pin on Japan, and all together it is about the same as I’ve experienced at the best of times in Canada or when I was in Poland.
I also want to thank you for your advice to study Hiragana and Katakana as soon as I could. I have started, although I am just beginning, but I may not have even got that far were it not for your suggestion that it would make things more interesting and fun. I agree wholeheartedly; as Douglas Adams put it, he’d prefer the awe of understanding to the awe of ignorance any day of the week. My knowledge of Japanese script and language (and culture, for that matter) could barely fill a gnat’s ear, but I will do what I can to improve. I’m not pressuring myself, either; when I was in Ukraine I hardly learned anything, and too much of that can be attributed to my attitude, I’m sad to say.
Ah, yes, biking. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever biked in January before. And yeah, the weather is milder than Canada – but still, we’re at about the same latitude as Los Angeles, and it’s much warmer there right now. Everything feels very cold; my apartment can never be as warm as my house back home, even when it’s -30 back in Bedford, and the school halls and gym are unheated. I’m not complaining, but yet I feel like I’ve never been so cold so much for so long. I’d almost rather go back to snowstorms, provided that there is central heating and all our other Canadian winter conveniences. In fact, I WOULD rather, because here I wouldn’t have to shovel anything! =)
Wow; that would be amazing, to do a bike trip down here [from Osaka]. I guess it’s feasible; you could probably even bike to the foot of the bridges, or you could take a ferry. I guess it would take maybe two days? I have a bike too, but it’s a single-speed; it’s fine for the city but not much good on the hills.
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(January 24th) – parts of a letter to an old family friend
Hello, [friend of my family]!
I must apologize for being so late in contacting you, and also so late in thanking you for coming to see me at Narita. It was not only very nice of you and your husband to do that, but it also helped me with my first impressions of Japan.
Part of the reason I am late in sending this message is that I have had a difficult time adjusting to life here. I am not (often) complaining (anymore) =) but the first two weeks were very difficult. Things are better now; it’s not so much that things have changed, but more that I have changed a little. So I feel good now.
Things are well in Tokushima. I’m settling into my job, and the children I teach are easy to get along with. You were right to say that Tokushima and Shikoku are small! Maybe Shikoku is the PEI of Japan! But for me, it is okay; Tokushima is actually a bigger city than the one I came here from (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Tokushima also has more than its share of foreigners from many different countries, and could even be called multicultural by Japanese standards. We also have a lot of support here because I am not the only foreign teacher from Halifax at this school, and there are also some Australians here, so there is always someone to speak English at a mile a minute to.
I look forward to seeing you in Tokyo someday soon (when the weather is warmer and our holidays coincide, perhaps?), and I will be speaking a little bit of Japanese by then – I am currently learning Hiragana, and orally all I can say is “William Matheson des,” on the phone and “Shi tsu le i shi ma su,” (I can write it in hiragana, but I can only type it in romanji) when I walk into the office, plus a few other things – but I will slowly make improvements. =)
I should go to sleep now, since this is only Thursday and Friday, while it is a fun day and maybe my favourite day, is still a work day. I hope we keep in contact!
Talk to you soon!
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(January 25th) – parts of a letter to the teacher who preceded me
Things are going well here. As I write this they’re having me and F., the other new intern, “administer” a practice Eiken test to Year 1, Class 2. It’s a bit of a timewaster and there are many students who don’t want to do the test or who are cheating, but I guess it’s okay since it’s Friday after all. No, scratch that. As I type this, I didn’t get home until nearly seven – it’s also Sankanbi time! =)
The Grade Fours are a terrific class. Oh, sure, it’d be nice if they’d talk more, but maybe that would be trading one set of problems for another. Boy, they sure can make cute drawings, though! I really had to chuckle about a lot of the things I hung up – they were too cute.
I’m sorry I didn’t send you a message sooner. It’s been a hectic and difficult time for me, and I’m still adjusting. It is a very good thing that you wrote me those notes and left me some items to put up for Sankanbi. I thank you profusely for that; it must have been a lot of hassle on your part to have been both preparing to go home while doing all the organizing necessary for a smooth handover.
Anyway, I hope this note finds you well; I could drown you in annoying little questions, but I’ll hold my peace for now. For instance, I used to wonder (and still do a bit, but less as the days go by) where you found the time to do so much. But now I’m finding that most of the battle is staying organized, managing one’s time effectively, keeping cool about things, and always seeing things from the other person’s (most often, the children’s) point of view. It’s a process that is better experienced than taught, but even that opinion could be premature like so many others I’ve unfortunately cultivated.
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Tomorrow: Stories from a long bike ride.